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2nd Story

Are social networking sites safe from sex offenders?

The recent announcement that MySpace has removed the profiles of 90,000 registered sex offenders over the past two years have many worried about its safety and that of fellow social networking sites such as Facebook.

MySpace's recently announced figure is 40,000 more than the previously released number, according to a Feb. 4 Los Angeles Times article. As well as booting the registered offenders, MySpace has also turned their information over to the attorney general of Connecticut in response to a subpoena.

"Almost 100,000 convicted sex offenders mixing with children on MySpace - shown by our subpoena - is absolutely appalling and totally unacceptable," said Connecticut attorney general Michael Blumenthal in a statement printed in a Feb. 3 New York Times article. "For every one of them, there may be hundreds of others using fake names and ages."

Facebook has received a similar subpoena but had not yet released any information.

"We've been working productively with Atty. Gen. Blumenthal's office for more than three years on these issues," said Chris Kelly, the company's chief privacy officer, in a statement reprinted by the L.A. Times. "They recently let us know that they are planning to send an updated subpoena."

However, John Cardillo, chief executive officer of Sentinel Tech Holding, said Facebook has been a haven for registered sex offenders who have been ousted from MySpace, according to the New York Times. Some are questioning Cardillo's statement as his company makes the software MySpace uses to find sex offenders.

In a Tech Radar online story, Cardillo stated that in just a few days, the Sentinel technology found 8,487 registered sex offenders on Facebook by doing a basic search. But, a Facebook spokesman said the method was flawed. It alleges some names were wrongly matched up with innocent people. Facebook insists that their internal tools work best and that they will continue to use them to protect users.

The recent announcement by MySpace and the debate about Facebook comes on the heels of the January release of the Enhancing Child Safety and Online Technologies report. It was prepared by the Internet Safety Technical Task Force, which includes representatives from Facebook, MySpace and Microsoft as well as child safety and public policy advocacy organizations. The report said that the threat the Internet and social networking sites pose to child safety might be overblown. It went on to say that bullying and harassment are the most common problems for young people both on and offline.

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